Sunday, September 27, 2009
After a long hiatus from the social scene, I decided that it was time to start dating again. Stick my big toe back in the water and see what bites. I've mixed feelings about it, but looking at the long summer behind me and the longer winter ahead, I think it might be nice to spend time with someone again. You know, give it another shot. Solitary confinement wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to do it alone.
Now, when you're in your 20s and 30s, all you have to do is hang out your shingle, and the guys line up like crows on a cable. At a few years shy of 50, it's a little more tricky. I'm no longer in the bloom of youth, but neither have I gone to seed. Fortunately for me, I'm not a cougar. I'm all about 50-something divorcees, who've already plowed the field, reaped the harvest, and aren't looking to plant another crop. Plus older guys are just sexier than strapping youngsters. Period, end of story. I like to think some guy approaching his geezer years would consider himself fortunate to reel in a self-contained, self-supporting, not-butt-ugly gal, with all of her hair, most of her marbles, and newly cleaned teeth.
Recent events seem to prove otherwise. Hey, this is a tough city. Try to meet someone here who isn't either a whack job or a suit. Finding an interesting 50-something who's available is like finding an atheist in the Bible Belt: they're there, but generally under the radar. Plus I rarely leave the monastery except to go to work, thus my chances of meeting a guy are abysmal. So after not a little persuasion from my friends, I did the unthinkable. I joined an online dating service. I figured I'd give it three months, which was their minimum. See, I always thought this stuff was for desperate folks. I never used to have a problem getting a date [loud sniff]. But all that has changed, so in my ongoing effort to stay open-minded and try all avenues, I figured I'd give 'er a go.
I'm so glad that I did. I needed to find out first hand what a boneheaded idea it was, and it's given me priceless insight into why men aren't lining up at my door. I've come to realize that this kind of thing is for "normal" people, and unfortunately, that would not be me. I'm an Obsessive. I crave extremes. I hate barbecues. I loathe small talk. My social skills are competent, but not award-winning. My perfect date is one in which I work in my studio, my date is occupied with his own stuff, and at the end of the evening we get on the outside of a bottle of wine. Conversation optional. Does it get any better than that?
I joined one of those services where you fill out a long application, and then the computer generates the matches for you: the lazy person's dating service. So every day I had ten new matches to check out. That lasted a few weeks, then the number was halved. Couldn't get excited about any of the matches. Then it got down to about one match per day...nothing. I now get about one a week, and there's a good chance that the computer will blow a fuse before it finds me a suitable match. Apparently it went through its New York State database, because I'm now getting matches from New Hampshire, Ohio, and yesterday I got one from Annapolis, Maryland. Jeez, where to next? I'm sorta curious to see whether the computer will go north and cross the Canadian border, or head out west into the Great Plains. Let's hope my date has a good set of snow tires.
Needless to say, I haven't been on a date. I haven't even got to the phone call stage. I can see that online dating isn't going to shorten my winter. How could it? Photos don't tell you squat - the essence of a person can only be felt in person. Intelligence, humor, integrity, compassion, passion - all this can be sensed by the way a person carries himself. You can tell volumes about a guy just by the way that he scratches his nose. Online dating quickly becomes a hobby, and you have to be willing to go on lots and lots of dates to find a sexy nose-scratcher. I'm sure that I've passed up the opportunity to meet some nice guys, but I'm not inclined to spend my weekend getting cranked on caffeine while meeting financial analysts, meaty NFL-heads, and overweight stock brokers. While I don't put much stock in physical appearance, I do have a limit of one chin per match.
I figure I've got two things working against me: one, I'm terribly picky, and two, I'm not desperate. Bad combination, and it may be what keeps me single for the remainder of my days. It's okay - I got stuff to do, like stage the Apocalypse and all that. In fact, it may be that the Rapture is the very thing that'll get me a date. All the born-again wives will be whisked away, and their heathen 50-something husbands will be Left Behind for the taking. Bring it on! But in the meantime, I think I'll dig out my wool blankets, as it looks like it may be a chilly winter.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I white-knuckled my way through yet another dentist appointment yesterday. I so wanted to be brave and strong, but even with the nitrous oxide, I whimpered and moaned. Tears and spittle running down my face - rather unseemly for an aspiring advaitan like myself, but I suppose dignity is one of the first things to be cast aside on the spiritual path.
While the hygienist was chipping away at my tartar with her jack hammer, I was appropriately thinking about destruction. The Book of Revelation is all over it. According to John the Prophet, the end of the world is nigh, and we're all about to get majorly creamed. It's not something that I get too worked up about anymore, but when I was an evangelical Christian, it kept me awake at night. I worried that when the Rapture happened, I'd watch the heels of the saved float peacefully up to heav'n, while my heathen feet remained planted firmly on earth. And then, once the born-agains are whisked away, the fun begins: fire and brimstone, vengeance and fury, gnashing of teeth (assuming that I have any left), and so on. But I now have bigger fish to fry in the worry department, and although the Apocalypse has been booted off my list, it still gets my attention just for the sheer magnitude of the destruction.
People have a hard time with the idea of destruction. It implies an end to something, and that's unsettling to a lot of folks. Even if their life's a mess, the idea of it - the mess - being destroyed makes them hysterical. If their marriage is shattered, they'd rather cling to it than allow it to transform, or end it completely. Familiarity is the lesser evil, and it trumps destruction most of the time. But what most people don't get is that destruction is the preliminary step to transformation. You can't shift to a better place if you're clinging to old habits, and you won't find a more suitable partner if you're buried in a dead relationship. If something isn't working in your life, wouldn't you like it to be destroyed so that it can be renovated? Some relationships need to be gutted, then rebuilt upon a new foundation. The Book of Revelation is all about destroying evil so that goodness and peace may prevail on earth as it is in heaven.
One cannot speak about destruction without bringing Shiva into the conversation. He's the Hindu god of destruction, and his chief concern is to destroy the ego wherever it pops up. Shiva has no patience for our egoic versions of reality, and creates a minor Apocalypse in our personal lives when we let this kind of false perception take over. Just about the time you start thinking of yourself as the center of the universe, Shiva swoops in to set things straight. His destruction is a form of tough love; he allows it to happen because he knows that it's the only way to destroy our ego-based fantasies about ourselves.
So although he's not mentioned in the Book of Revelation, Shiva will figure mightily in the Apocalypse. In advaitan terms, Shiva is the undivided Self, a symbol of our nondual nature. Jesus is the same symbol for Christians (he was both God and man), most often represented by the Cross. Dying to one's lower nature (ego) and embodying pure consciousness is the type of destruction that is ultimately prophesied in the Book of Revelation.
Meanwhile, back in the dentist's chair, it looks like my suspicions were correct - the good doctor is using my cavities, crowns, and canals to finance his new yacht, which should be paid for by the end of the year, the way things are going. The good news is that he's agreed to drop me off at Patmos, where I'll wait out the Apocalypse, because after he does all this work to my teeth, I'm not going to be able to afford to live here anymore. I figure I can live in a cave on Patmos with all my teeth, or stay here in New York with a natty set of dentures. Tough call.
Hey, check it out. I got this in the mail today. Somebody's on to me. All I did was blog a few times about the Book of Revelation, and now I'm getting Apocalypse literature in the mail? Creepy. Makes me wonder who's reading my blog. The Antichrist? The whore of Babylon? Pat Robertson? Jeez, I better watch what I say. Oh, and check out who's riding the back of the Beast (above). Doggonit, that Sarah Palin gets around! Ya know, I haven't read the pamphlet yet, but this may just be her bid for the 2012 Republican nominee. And don't think she hasn't got a chance in hell, either. That's exactly where she's got a chance. You go, girl! If anyone can kick the Butt of the Beast, it's Sarah.
Well, I'll have to get back to you on this. I need to dig in and do a little reading to find out who's got my number. And address! This is a little scary. If my mailbox starts filling up with travel brochures to Patmos, I'm out of here.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I once read that when the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead, they had to remove the internal organs to prevent them from decomposing inside the corpse. The point was to keep the body intact for burial, so the organs were pulled out, dehydrated by some embalming technique that they invented, then stuffed back in the corpse. A human sausage, essentially. The problem was the brain - there wasn't a good way to get at it. So they figured out that if they stuck a metal rod up a nostril and into the skull and twirled it around like a whisk, they could turn the brain to soup. Then it was easy to drain the gray matter out the ears and nostrils, leaving the skull brain free.
This is what working a nine-to-five feels like to me, minus the whisk. As the week progresses, my energy is drained and my brain pulped, so that by Friday all traces of gray matter have been whisked away. By the time I made it home last Friday, the only activity my remaining neurons could handle was getting on the outside of a glass of wine. It's not that my job isn't challenging or enjoyable; it's the schedule that does me in. The ancient Egyptians would have been interested in the long-term effects of the forty hour work week for their mummification procedures: the dry predictability, the steady pace, the lethargy of the long afternoons. Why wait until someone's a corpse before you puree their brain? They could skip the nasty whisk-up-the-nostril step and start the slow drain method during the relatively healthy years of adulthood, somewhere between adolescence and corpse.
But I'm sticking (nay, clinging) to my theory that the steady torpor of the work week is none other than gate to self-realization. What has passion and unpredictability ever done for me? It's got me through a whole lot of gates, but not the Gate. Lust for life is all fine and good, but it feeds the ego by fanning the flames of adventure and diversity. Starve the ego and cleanse the soul! It's worth a try, and it's not as though I have a choice at this point. I agreed to work for three months, and I won't go back on my word. So this is an experiment in quenching the fire, diving headlong into mind-numbing routine, and leading the conventional life of a suit until the end of the year. If this doesn't get me enlightened, nothing will.
Above: This was taken when I arrived home on Friday after my first 40-hour week. I look a little gaunt, but at least the hair's good.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I don't know if I've mentioned my day job. I have a small framing business. I specialize in framing for artists (that's the name of my business - Framing 4 Artists) and I do conservation framing and consulting for artists who are preparing for gallery shows. I also do freelance framing at the Museum of Modern Art when they have big shows and need an extra person, and I've just been called in again. There's a huge Tim Burton show coming up, and it looks like I'll be working in their framing department until the end of the year. Full time. Forty hours a week. That's twenty-four hundred minutes, or one hundred forty-four thousand seconds a week. In case you were wondering.
I have some very mixed feelings about all this. First and foremost, I'm grateful, as I love my boss and coworkers, and it's a great place to work, and I can really use the money. It came at a good time, in a lot of ways. But it does sorta throw a wrench in things, ya know? Like, who's going to rewrite the Book of Revelation? The task was assigned unto me, and far be it from thy servant Madge to blow it off. I can work on my texts a little at night, and more on the weekends, but I'm afraid that's not going to get 'er done as quickly as 2012, as promised. Sorry, folks, but it's now looking more like 2013 when I'll have it completed. The good news is that come January, when I'm finished at MoMA, I may just take that trip to Patmos.
So not to whine, but jiminy, this full-time work ethic is just not me. Every morning I do the subway shuffle, a couple of train changes, and I emerge at Rockefeller Center, where I'm herded north along Sixth Avenue, a shuffling hermit among the strutting suits. I have the good sense to leave my hair shirt back at the monastery, but I don't exactly blend into the fold, ya know? Such a dramatic shift from the solitary existence I've led over the summer. And as much as I love the warmth and humor of my coworkers and the feeling of being part of a 'team', it's just not me. It's like ... like ... well, Slow Drip Soul Death is the only way I can think to describe it. SDSD. If I had to do this any longer than three months, I'd blow a gasket. Even though I make a lot less money working for myself, at least it's in my hands, and I'm the boss. I love the erratic schedule of self-employment, and the fact that every day is different. It's completely unpredictable and keeps me ever on the edge of my seat. Which can be harrowing and totally stressful. But apparently that's what I thrive on. It's predictability and routine that suck the life out of me. What good is a fat bank account, if your soul has been leeched out of you? What's the point of living, if all you have to show for it is money in the bank? What good has money ever done anyone?
So this has got me wondering ... how do people do it? Work forty hours a week, and keep their brains from sliding out their nostrils? Does it require complete surrender? Could it be that the enormous sacrifice of oneself to the daily grind ignites the flame of devotion? Are there in fact tangible benefits that emerge from this kind of resignation? Is there something in it that's conducive to the contemplative life? I mean, maybe renunciation is the very thing I need, and I'm being given an opportunity here. Maybe sucking all spontaneity and choice out of one's life, numbing the mind to the point that it's essentially in an iced state of one-pointed inertia, and reducing one's week to a predictable schedule that defies even the slightest alteration in routine is in fact the necessary catalyst for self-realization. Could it be?? Is free will and spare time in fact an impediment on the path to enlightenment? Must one become a mindslug in order to awaken into the perfection of pure consciousness?
The forty hour work week is surely an ego-cruncher, which is good for starters. When my alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m., I get up, but my ego sleeps in, so it's the perfect time to meditate. And now, at 7:45 p.m., my ego knows it'll be going to bed in an hour and a half, so there's no point in calling in damage control, as my ego's already in its jammies. Maybe that's the point ... maybe the nine to five uses the Slow Drip Soul Death method to wear the ego down to a nub. It's hard for it to get much traction in bunny slippers. Well, bring it on, I say. Whatever it takes to take down my festering ego. Slow drip in the fast lane, roadkill in the express lane, whatever.
So all this to say that, fwiw, I'm going to be a bit tied up in the coming months, and somewhat less loquacious. Please don't take it personally, and try to find a good book or something to keep you occupied while I'm a working stiff. And don't worry - I'll keep you abreast of St. John's Revelations and the Antichrist and his ilk. But I'm getting ahead of myself - I'm only on Chapter Two. Not much has happened yet - still setting the stage. Seven letters to seven churches, boring stuff like that. It'll start heating up soon.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I'm starting to understand the process of creativity a little better, now that I'm approaching it from the advaita angle. In the advaitan approach, there is no separation between the artist, the medium, and the artwork. This is the terrain of nondualism, so from the outset there is an awareness of the process being an uninterrupted flow of energy. How is this experienced? How does the advaitan artist experience the creative process?
It's very simple, really. There is no break between being and doing. The miniscule gap that the artist experiences while applying paint to canvas or chisel to stone altogether disappears. It's similar to the way in which water flows into the sea. Even though the location of the water determines what we call it (brook, river, ocean), it's never anything except water in constant motion. Likewise, the creative energy flows from its source through the artist to the artwork and has its various labels along the way, but the energy itself is unchanging and unbroken.
There's a good reason why the gap between artist and artwork needs to be completely closed up. It's in this sliver of a gap where ego slips in, and then the creative process is stained. In advaitan art, there can be no ego involvement. As soon as ego finds its way into the process, there is the stain of duality. And as soon as there is duality, the art becomes self-conscious, trendy, and something else. A commodity, an ornament, a status symbol, but not Art. See, there's art, and then there's Art. Art with a little "a" is produced self-consciously, meaning that the doer is aware of the doing, and therefore separated from it. In advaitan art, there is a seamless process of creativity, and the sense of "I" or "mine" is lost, in some cases permanently. I haven't yet been able to permanently lose myself; the 'self-amnesia', or forgetting of oneself, lasts only as long as the process of making the art. Alas, as soon as the creating ends, the "I" creeps back in and observes the artwork as a separate entity. It's a drag when this happens, and there's not much for me to do at that point except maybe write in my blog. But the artist who permanently loses her sense of a separate self is an awakened, enlightened being, and thus continually at one with the creative flow.
While water is flowing from a mountain top to the ocean, it's not stressing out about the outer form it embodies. It doesn't have a meltdown, so to speak, about whether it is snow, rivulet, brook, river, waterfall, and so on. It's just water. What we choose to call it is of no consequence to the water itself. Likewise, the artist isn't concerned with the form of the artwork, or its value, its critical worth, its gallery placement, or whether it fits into post-neo-deconstructivist theory. The advaitan artist is concerned only with closing the gap between himself and his process, and beyond that it's up to the viewer and the critic to make distinctions in style, influence, and market value.
When I'm particularly absorbed in the creative process, I lose awareness of myself as someone to attend to. Instead there is an awareness of an energy flowing through me that requires no explanation, no assistance, no tending to. I am conscious of consciousness, and compelled to do only one thing: stay out of the way. Just keep working, don't analyze, try to ignore thoughts, and keep plugging away at the process at hand. At the moment I'm cutting up the Koran with an x-acto blade letter by letter, and reassembling it into the Book of Revelation. Pretty rote stuff. But there are a lot of aesthetic decisions to be made as I work, so I can't just put it on autopilot. I'm present insofar as I decide where the line of type is going to be placed on the paper, but my ego involvement is minimal. That's when everything's going well. When things go badly, it's because I've thought too much, and my ego has slipped through the gap. My flat files are filled with paintings and drawings that were done by my ego. Boring stuff.
I hear actors talk about losing themselves in the role they're playing. Ironically, when there is no trace of the actor, that's when she gives a brilliant performance. It's the same with visual art. Closing the gap and losing oneself is what creativity is all about. When the artist disappears, pure creativity radiates, and consciousness unfolds into more consciousness.
Above: Gate, acrylic on paper, 2008. Painted by pure consciousness, with some help from my ego.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
It looks like I'm in good company with the nitrous oxide reality peel. Turns out that William James (yes, the William James) had a run-in with it as well, but his was for recreational purposes, while mine was most definitely not. He wrote the following in 1882:
"With me, as with every other person of whom I have heard, the keynote of the experience is the tremendously exciting sense of an intense metaphysical illumination. Truth lies open to the view in depth beneath depth of almost blinding evidence. The mind sees all logical relations of being with an apparent subtlety and instantaneity to which its normal consciousness offers no parallel..."
- from "The Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide" by William James
Ha! There ya go! So it's not just me. The only difference for me was that it was far from sublime. I was at the dentist's office, after all. The brick wall that I stared at while knocked out on nitrous oxide told me more than I needed to know. Yeah yeah, I know all that, you dumb wall...just pipe down and go back to being a pile of bricks, huh? The only good thing I'll say about it is that the existential despair created by the nitrous oxide eclipsed the hysteria caused by a metal rod being poked into my gums. Thank God for relativity. But for a complete description of the levels of hell, I defer to Dante, not James. He knew a thing or two about metal prods.
The reality peel thing is really in my face right now. (Btw, if this term finds its way into public usage, you heard it here first). Sometimes you just want to see the world as a thing of substance, ya know? There are times when you need a chair just to be a chair. You don't need it to be a naked symbol of the enduring compassion of humankind. You know, man crafting objects to provide rest and comfort to the aching souls of his fellow humans. Don't even get me started on La-Z-Boys - it's impossible for me to look at one without watering up. Futility. Compassion. Redemption. It's all there in the recliner, if only we could see.
I was talking to my good friend Claude about all this - he's the artist and massage therapist I've written about elsewhere - and he knows all about reality peels. He said I should just be glad that I don't have to touch it. I guess the massage business brings with it a host of gruesome reality checks, all at your fingertips. So what's to be done when life's veneer has worn so thin that you start to see through it, like, most of the time? Should we hanker for the good ol' days, when a chair was just something you sat in, and a gallon of milk was something you drank? Or embrace the fact that it was merely a nostalgic illusion, and the concept of 'normality' is as quaint as Ward and June or Little Bo Peep? There seems to be no choice in the matter - you just have to look "it" square in the face, and pray for the strength to endure. And take heart, because even though appearances are no longer what you thought they were, underneath them is an ocean of compassion.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I made it. It was a long, exhausting journey, but I'm resting in my cave, preparing to work on my new text drawing. I thought it made sense to work on it at the scene of the crime. Nah, just kidding - I'm still lodged in my cave in boring old Bushwick. Really loving my new text - the Book of Revelation Unplugged - which I'm slicing from the Koran. And I just learned something interesting from my dad, which all of you probably knew: St. John, who described his visions in the Book of Revelation? He's the same John who wrote the fourth gospel. John the Evangelist. Who knew? Not I, clearly. I feel a little sheepish - I mean, I went to weekly Bible studies for how many years? All through my twenties? And I didn't make that connection? Makes me wonder what else I missed. What?? Mary was a virgin?
So I've decided to make this text look psychedelic. I want to try to capture what St. John must have felt as he saw the visions unfold: exquisite beauty, sheer terror, fascination, disgust - all of it. A tall order to recreate his reverie on paper, but it'll be fun to give it a shot. I want to see if it's possible to make a piece that's both disturbing and transcendent.
I originally wanted to do this piece as an installation. I sent a well-crafted proposal to a gallery in Dumbo, and it went something like this: the text started at the entrance to the gallery, pasted directly onto the wall at eye level, a single line of type wrapping around the walls of the gallery from left to right so that it could be read properly. I proposed to transcribe the entire Book in this way, without punctuation or spaces, wrapping around the walls as many times as needed until I'd completed the entire Book of Revelation. I did the math, and figured out that if I worked eight hours a day, it would take me about two months to complete, but if I worked 24/7, I could do it in forty days and forty nights. I should've just left it at that, but I had to go and take it a step further. I proposed that I would fast and meditate while I installed the piece, so as to endure some of the hardships that challenged St. John as he transcribed his visions. I also proposed to take a vow of silence, which would last for the duration of the installation. Lastly, I would have an unobtrusive cot in the corner of the gallery where I would doze when necessary, and on which they could gently revive me, should I pass out. And I'd need my own key to the loo.
They politely declined my proposal. It would seem that they weren't too keen on a silent, skeletal artist moping about the gallery day and night, half crazed with hunger and faint from sleep deprivation. Plus they'd have had to close the gallery for over a month while I installed the piece. For the life of me I can't figure out why they turned me down. It must have had something to do with the key to the loo. Yeah, that's it. But it's just as well, as it would've surely taxed my sanity, which is already running on fumes, and I'm now free do it in the comfort of my own padded cell.
Monday, September 7, 2009
How did you spend your Labor Day Weekend? I holed up in my cave and finally started my next big text: The Book of Revelation. I'm cutting the letters from the Koran to transcribe the entire text from the Bible. (If you're new to my blog, see footnote). It's a large piece of paper (44" x 30"), so there will be lots of room for me to move the type around and play with shapes. I expect that it'll take a good long time to complete, but I have to finish before 2012 A.D., as that's when the Apocalypse is slated to come down the pike.
For those of you who aren't in the know, the Book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible, and was written by St. John the Evangelist, who found himself alone on the island of Patmos. Like me, he was holed up in a cave, not blogging but having a series of wildly cinematic visions, which God instructed him to write down. They were graphic visions of future events which would precede the Rapture, or second coming of Christ. The visions were terrifying and rife with enigmatic symbolism that leaves Bible scholars speechless. Well, that would be hard to do - Christian scholars aren't known for being short on speech. There are many interpretations to entice the reader's sensibility, but the wisest scholars admit that they don't know what to make of St. John's nightmarish visions.
When you read the descriptions of his visions, you immediately notice that they're very psychedelic. Which led me to wonder if perhaps St. John had eaten some mushrooms. He was stuck in a cave, after all, and was undoubtedly starved, so it's not far-fetched to think he might have scarfed down some mushrooms to appease his hunger. He even mentions having a little tummy ache, and if that doesn't wrap up my mushroom theory, then I don't know what does. So I googled it, and sure enough, someone beat me to it. There are all kinds of rants about St. John having ingested and tripped, as Patmos has the perfect climate for growing psilocybin mushrooms.
Even if the source of St. John's hallucination was magic mushrooms, this doesn't negate the validity of his visions. Hallucinogens have been used by shamans throughout history to induce altered states of clarity. Some consider mushrooms to be sacred vehicles that dissolve ego and bring us closer to realization. The mushrooms would have provided St. John with an essential 'reality peel' so that he could witness these crucial events and record them for later days. So I'm sticking with my mushroom theory, while defending the integrity of St. John's revelations.
Okay, so it's time for me to make an announcement about my position in regard to the Book of Revelation. As I've written elsewhere, I was raised in a Christian home, and later, due to the influence of my dad, I became a born-again Christian, which I remained until I was in my thirties. I am no longer a Christian, but have a profound connection to it, and a deep respect for those who love the Lord Jesus. But above all that, I love my dad, and respect his beliefs. He's my hero, and I'm the luckiest gal on the planet to have scored him for a father. And even though our views are no longer in alignment, his immense faith is a constant inspiration to me. I would never belittle his faith, nor anyone's faith for that matter, as I've hopefully made clear elsewhere on this blog. I mention all this as a preface for the following disclaimer, which I shall post in small print every time I blog about the Book of Revelation:
The following material is for informational and entertainment purposes only. The author (that would be me) has no affiliations with a Christian organization, nor does she align herself against such. Any perceived sarcasm or ridicule is circumstantial, and the presentation of material is without bias. All Biblical references will be presented in an objective manner, and the author will withhold her opinion regarding their veracity. The determination as to whether the material presented is fact or fiction will be left to the reader.
There. That should keep me from getting flogged. The last thing I need are evangelicals picketing outside my window. And Muslims! I'm using the Koran, after all. But in spite of the threat of an early death, I'm excited to dig into this end times material, because they say that verily it is upon us, and the Rapture is nigh. There are many, many folks who believe Obama is the Antichrist (google it!), and who are checking off end time events as they come to pass, ushering us ever closer to the Apocalypse. I didn't mention that my dad is a Bible scholar and a walking encyclopedia of end time events, so I'll be sharing his views when applicable.
Well, I'm sure you're all aflutter over this, eagerly dusting off your Bibles in anticipation of the feast to come. I promise to keep it at a slow drip, as I don't want to lose any followers. And please, if I start to sound a little fanatical, or if I book a one-way flight to Patmos, would someone kindly reel me in? Thanks.
Above: Here he is, poor bugger. St. John on his wild weekend in Patmos. He seems to be taking it all in stride.
Footnote: I suspect the title of this post will reel in a few locust eating left-wingers, as they surf the internet for crumbs of conspiracy. Welcome! You may read about my creative process here.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I'm probably the only person on the Eastern Seaboard who's glad that it's Labor Day Weekend. This has been the longest summer of my life, and it can't end too soon for me. It's still pretty warm out there, so for all practical purposes summer is still upon us. But once I feel that first chill in the air and see a leaf turn, I'm shedding this hair shirt and cuttin' loose, baby. My self-imposed solitary confinement has come to full term and I'll be cutting some rug here at the monastery.
The funny thing is that in spite of my internal purgatory, my creativity has been thriving. How can this be? My life fell apart, chunk by chunk, and I was altogether miserable. I was at various times a sobbing, slobbering mess, to the point where I had to be careful not to drip snot onto the piece I was working on. On one particularly graphic day, things got so messy that I had to devise a snot protector, strapped around my chin to prevent the artwork from getting soggy. (The Snot Guard™; patent pending). And yet in the middle of my histrionics, a river of creativity flowed through me, a veritable Amazon that's brought my work to new places and spun it off in unexpected directions.
I've seen this in other artists as well. Their life may be a complete train wreck, but they keep working, slogging through the storm of emotions and taking their creative work to the next level. There are two things going on here: first, when life deals you a few blows and you're like an insect laying belly-up on the sidewalk, you need relief. You head for the closest nipple, a familiar comfort zone where you know you're protected and no one can get at you. For most artists this means diving headlong into their work.
The second and more interesting element at play is that you've got a torrent of energy running through your system. See, energy only comes in one flavor. Energy is energy. I learned this through my tantric studies, and if you think about it, it makes sense. Energy is neutral. There isn't good energy or bad energy; it's what we do with it that makes energy show up in different flavors. If you direct your energy into a self-pitying snotfest, that's your choice. If you direct it toward sex, shopping, or sumo wrestling, well there you go. But energy is just energy. So when you're in emotional traction and you've got excess energy pumping through your system, it's your call what to do with it. Me, I like to pick myself apart and find every flaw known to mankind. I also enjoy taking a magnifying glass and going over every mistake I've ever made in my life, just to be sure that I didn't miss anything. But I also like to do my creative work. So as excess energy has been coursing through me for the past three months, I've managed to flay myself within an inch of my life, while cranking out the creative stuff and marveling at my level of productivity.
But enough is enough. I'm done. I smell the first wafts of freedom. Plus I'm out of Kleenex. In fact, a couple nights ago a friend was playing at a bar down in Soho, so I dragged my advaitan ass out of my studio to hear him play, and you know what? I had a blast. I even danced, if you can feature that. Yup, that's right - the slobbering anchorite of Bushwick out on the town and shakin' it around. So yeah, tomorrow's Labor Day, and then in a few weeks the weather will be cooling off, and before you know it, the first snowflakes will be dancing past my window. Great to be alive, folks.
Friday, September 4, 2009
I love the concept of a stain. I recently read 'The Human Stain' by Philip Roth, which lodged the idea of stain in my brain. Then I keep coming across it in my studies, when I read spiritual books to find passages suitable for texting. The idea of a spiritual stain is fairly common. It refers to a blemish that is so embedded in the fabric of our being that it cannot be removed. From there it goes in all directions: if you're a Christian, the stain is dealt with by accepting Jesus as your savior, whose blood was shed to remove all sin; a sacrificial stain remover, if you will. If you're Muslim, only complete obedience to Allah will remove your unholy stain upon death. If you're Buddhist, the stain is part of the package, and your lot in life. And so on. As for advaitins, well, I'm not exactly the spokesperson, but since I'm the only one up at this hour, I'll take it on: the stain is sacred and not to be removed. The stain is what being human is all about. There is no separation between stain and virtue; a blemish is an appearance, just as no-blemish is an appearance, neither of which have substance.
Now, in an hour or so all the official advaitins are going to start waking up, and I'm sure I'll get spanked for posturing myself as an authority on nonduality and spiritual stains. So I'd better type quickly. Everyone's got a stain, right? Something about them that's generally kept secret, but which is a blight upon their soul. Some idiosyncrasy that affects their life on an ongoing basis. I'm not talking about innocuous quirks here, but much deeper stains - those nasty kinks in the hose which are beyond repair. We've all got them, and they drive us nuts. So what I'm suggesting is that these stains are the very things that form us. They're what make us fascinating. We do well to stop trying to extract them, and instead to accept them as integral to our personality. A person without a blemish would be pretty uninteresting, and completely unable to relate to the rest of us soiled chimps.
That's all I really have to say on the subject. I need to do a piece on the human stain, just to get it out of my system. There's an abundance of material to work with. Apparently I'm not the only one to wax poetic on the subject - the holy books on my shelf are lousy with references to spiritual stain. Looks to be a busy Labor Day Weekend!
Above: I found this on the internet. It's a stain in the likeness of Jesus, of course.